Testing the Tudor Trail

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Last week, instead of just managing the project from the table, Andy suggested that we went for a test ‘in the wild’, as scientists say, to assess the user experience. We had tested it before, but never as a group, which was interesting for me because I learned that following the trail can be done as a group even when every member of the group has their own phone. Interestingly, the activity brought us together, and talking helped us to find the objects and reflect about them in situ.

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We started at RAMM (each trail starts in the location associated with it and ends at RAMM, so this trail starts and ends at RAMM). Each trail also has an icon that is easily recognisable marking where the trail starts in Exeter. Here you can see Will just outside RAMM’s offices starting the Tudor Trail.

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Very near RAMM we found this beautiful object. Doesn’t it make you wonder what a Ming porcelain dish is doing just outside RAMM in Exeter? I found it quite evocative and, typically, seeing the digital image made me want to go and see the ‘original’ at RAMM.

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We then set off and noticed the trail is visualised through a red line. The line is dependent on GPS, no it is not entirely reliable. Typically, one looks at the screen and one’s surroundings, and there is some level of variation which also depends on the quality of the maps apple currently use.

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Testing like this, gave Andy, the developer from 1010 Media, the opportunity to resolve problems as they came along, so this was a very iterative experience. In the Cathedral Yard I was temporarily able to view the trail through street view, which was quite an uncanny experience.

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We spent most time between Sainsbury’s and St Pancras where there were two or three objects.  A message told us we were getting closer to them. I liked that, as it gave us a sense of arriving at something, even though, of course, there was nothing physically there.

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Finally, having found the object I was looking for, I realised that one of the most interesting aspects of the app is the interplay between our presence in space and the absence of the object. This, I presume, is what may prompt reflection about how an object is ‘interpreted’ when it is not there in front of you, and yet, through a temporary interplay facilitated by technology, it is kind of there.

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About Gabriella Giannachi

Gabriella Giannachi is Professor in Performance and New Media, and Director of the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter, which promotes advanced interdisciplinary research in performance and the arts through collaborations between artists, academics and scientists from a range of disciplines. Her most recent and forthcoming book publications include: Virtual Theatres: an Introduction (Routledge: 2004); Performing Nature: Explorations in Ecology and the Arts, ed. with Nigel Stewart (Peter Lang: 2005); The Politics of New Media Theatre (Routledge: 2007); Performing Presence: Between the Live and the Simulated, co-authored with Nick Kaye (MUP: 2011), nominated in Theatre Library Association 44th Annual Book Awards (2012); Archaeologies of Presence, co-edited with Nick Kaye and Michael Shanks (Routledge: 2012); Performing Mixed Reality, co-authored with Steve Benford (MITP: 2011) and Archive Everything (MITP, forthcoming). She has published articles in Contemporary Theatre Review, Leonardo, Performance Research, Digital Creativity, TDR and PAJ, and developed conference papers for IVA 2009, 9th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents, CHI 2008, CHI 2009 (best paper award), CHI 2012 (best paper award) and CHI 2013 (best paper award). She is an investigator in the RCUK funded Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub (2009-2014) and is collaborating with Tate and RAMM on a number of projects. She has a BA from Turin University and a PhD from Cambridge University, UK.
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